Written and Directed By Neill Blomkamp
With three feature films to his credit, Neill Blomkamp has proven to have a distinct visual style and a flare for science fiction stories that, while told in futuristic settings, draw a lot of parallels to our world and our time. This one is no different, and although it didn’t hit me nearly as hard as the incredible District 9, I did get more out of it than Chappie. Perhaps that’s due in part to the use of seasoned actors instead of rappers in principal roles, but mostly it just had more of a focus on its message and the points it was trying to make.
The idea of a future rife with class warfare is a well-trodden path, and Blompakmp’s twist is that the richest now live on a massive space station they have built to escape an overpopulated Earth’s decimated environment and ecosystem. In that vain, it manages to feel updated, but the director has still clearly developed a wheelhouse that he will need to climb out of soon, to prove he is a capable filmmaker beyond this type of story. That said, his flare is very much alive here, and he delivers a movie that is clearly his own, while balancing action-fueled entertainment with thought-provoking themes.
Matt Damon is his usual, strong self. Not only is he believable as an unlikely action hero (it’s not new territory for him), but he carries the emotional weight of the dramatic scenes very well, especially late in the film when he interacts with his childhood friend and her dying daughter. Jodie Foster is a bit on the campy side as far as villains go. Somehow, she seems to look the part but not act it in a convincing way. Or maybe the other way around, I’m not sure.
Themes of self sacrifice, personal needs vs the greater good, overpopulation, environmental damage, class struggle and more are all on display, and dealt with fairly well in just under two hours. There is a lot going on but Blomkamp keeps a solid balance and the movie succeeds on its own terms.